By MARY LIM
Once in a while, we need an escape from routine to reclaim and rejuvenate ourselves. My youngest daughter Laura and I did just that in April with a trip to Europe.
We started in Munich, the third largest city in Germany, where we visited the Marienplatz or Marien Square to see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. At 11am, we saw the musical figurines of the Glockenspiel reveal their grand display. Since 1908, it has delighted visitors with its musical presentation in the neo-Gothic tower.
Next on our plan was Jungfraujoch, Switzerland. The views of the Jungfrau mountain were simply awe-inspiring. We took the Jungfrau Railway to go up to the peak (3,571m), known as the “top of Europe”. The Swiss flag flapped vigorously in the freezing wind on the Jungfrau plateau. It was an amazing experience to be there.
Later, we made our way to the lowlands of the Netherlands. We set our eyes and hearts on Keukenhof, the most beautiful spring garden. More than seven million tulips of various colours were at the 32ha garden, making the place resplendent with natural beauty. We were there early before the crowds arrived so we had time to enjoy the garden in peace.
The chirping of birds and a placid stream in the middle of the sprawling garden contributed to the calm ambience.
We ambled through the Dutch countryside in Amsterdam. I saw quaint Dutch houses in Zaanse Schans and the windmills that the country is so well known for. Seeing chickens scratching for worms in the backyard of a Dutch country house made the setting so serene and natural.
I bought some local cheese and a cheese grater to bring back home. We had lunch in Volendam, a fishing village where traditional high-pointed bonnets are still worn by some Dutch ladies there.
We crossed the border into Belgium the next day and headed for the capital Brussels. A must-see when you are in Brussels is the Atomium, constructed in 1958. The Atomium is modelled on the atomic structure of an iron crystal and it has nine spheres.
The Grand Place is the heart of Brussels and epitomises Belgian elegance. You can enjoy mussels in Brussels but we opted for the barbecued chicken wings instead. We also shopped for fine Belgian tapestry as well as knick-knacks.
The Mannekin-Pis is another tourist attraction in the city. It is a cheeky fountain that’s shaped like a little boy peeing, said to be a symbol of uncommon courage and spontaneous spunk. Nearby were shops selling some of the finest chocolates. Being an unrepentant chocoholic, I snapped up as much as my hands could carry.
We sealed our memories in Reims, France. We visited Notre-Dame de Reims (pronounced “rhymes”), a beloved cathedral steeped in history where French kings were once crowned. We marvelled at the astonishing stained-glass windows, statues of angels and the apostles. Though we did not visit the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, we did visit the imposing Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
Sometimes it is only when we dare step outside the familiar, and live life a little more courageously, that we truly discover the most outstanding scenes. We ascended the Montparnasse at a height of 196m and were rewarded with a panoramic view of Paris. It was magical.